Writer’s Workshop for 3rd – 5th Grades

If you’re a teacher and you’ve ever taught writing, I need not insert the thoughts that run through your head as you read a piece that you’ve worked on for 2 weeks only to get something that looks like this:
I went to the beach. It was fun. The food was good. I had fun. My sister bought a t-shirt. It was fun. We had fun. They had fun. I can’t wait to go on vacation next year. It was fun.
Yes. We’ve all had these Newbery pieces of writing come across our desks. And yes, we’ve all wanted to bang our heads against the wall. Until we pass out. And then hopefully we’ll wake up in the Magical Land of Fantastical Writings.
Well, **newsflash**. MAGICAL LAND OF FANTASTICAL WRITINGS does not exist. Believe me, I’ve tried to find it. BUT…
…there is HOPE and SUCCESS that comes from Writer’s Workshop!
Once your students have been taught how writer’s workshop works in the classroom, their writing will improve as you teach them what they need to know, model how an author is “born” and praise the tiniest of successes in their writing endeavors.
Here is a simple breakdown of how I managed Writer’s Workshop (WW). The district that I worked in whole-heartedly believed in Jennifer Jacobson’sapproach and model of teaching writing to students. I used her graphic organizers time and time again before I ever knew who she was, and once I learned about her model of teaching and leading WW, I was hooked.
Our district sunk tons of money into training our teachers how to properly lead a successful WW in the classroom. I saw Jennifer several times during PD’s about her book No More “I’m Done!”. If you haven’t read it, I would highly encourage you to. She has tons of great ideas for mini lessons and how to structure your WW.
After hearing Jennifer explain how WW should be set up, and watching other teachers in my district lead their own WW, I was ready to attack this beast. 
I had 60 minutes for WW each day. My WW block of time looked like this:
  • 15 minutes: Mini-lesson at the carpet
  • 10 minutes: “Quiet 10” (I’ll explain this in-depth below)
  • 25 minutes: Work on Writing at their desk, Peer-Editing and Conferences with me (I’ll explain this in-depth below)
  • 10 minutes: Author’s Chair (I’ll explain this in-depth below)
I conducted 98% of my mini-lessons from the carpet in front of my anchor chart. I would tell my students what they would need (if anything) when they came to the carpet. I would use mentor texts often to show how published authors used descriptive words, imagery, figurative language and so on and so forth to connect with a reader. The series of mini-lessons below were about all focused on setting. 
Day 1: Setting Mini-Lesson
  • I told students to come to the carpet with a pencil and something hard to write on.
  • I  told them to sit on their “something hard to write on” and their pencil and to close their eyes as I read them a few pages of the book Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.
  • After I read the first few pages, I gave them each a piece of paper and told the students to illustrate what they thought the setting looked like based on the details from the text.
  • The illustration from the book showed a cave, a tree, a bear and a few other animals. The students were spot on with their own sketches based on the details the author used in the text. The students recognized the importance of details and the use of imagery in their writing when describing a setting of their story.


Day 2: Setting Mini-Lesson
  • The students came to the carpet and saw the purple writing on the anchor chart.
  • First, modeled how to insert key details about the setting described in these few sentences.
  • Then, I had a second anchor chart with a similar “boring” story. Together as a class, the students helped me edit to add juicy details to bring life to the setting of this story.


Day 3: Setting Mini-Lesson
  • The students assembled at the carpet and I read to them several pages of Island Baby by Holly Keller.
  • The students listed details from the text about the setting.
  • Then, I labeled the details about the setting to represent the 5 senses.

During Quiet 10, students were to take back what they learned during the mini-lesson and apply it to their own writings. This is the only time they could use an ink pen during writing class.

The “MUSTS” of Quiet 10:

  • The students must stay in their seat and be writing the whole time.
  • The students must stay quiet and focused on their writings.
  • The teacher must also be writing while the students are writing.
  • The teacher must play some type of music (I just had a classical music CD that I played everyday during Quiet 10).
Students can start a new writing, or they can work on a writing they’ve been working on all year long. However, the students need to be applying what they learned at the mini-lesson during their Quiet 10 writing time.
For example, the students spent their Quiet 10 time editing a story they had been working on by focusing on details about setting in their stories.


I loved this example of how a student added more details to her setting.

She added details about “red punch” and “people dancing to the jazz music”.

Their edits are noted by using ink pens.


After Quiet 10 ends, the students do 1 of 3 things:

  • Peer Edit their writings with a buddy
    • I had pre-determined who would be their Peer Editing Buddy.
    • Students would use a pencil while peer editing with their friends.
  • Conference with me at the back table about their writings.
    • I would keep a journal and calendar of who I wanted to meet with for conferencing, and how each student was progressing. This was great for RTI data and parent conferences.
  • Continuing to write on their own independently at their desk.


Students would sign up to meet with me at the back table. Once I called their name, they would go to this tiny board and erase their name, and another student would fill their spot.

When coming to me to conference, the students would sometimes have an idea of what they wanted to conference about, and sometimes they wouldn’t. Either way, I would always take it back to skills that they needed to improve on and the skill we were working on during the mini-lessons.

I would keep a calendar of who all I’d met with during the week and who I wanted to meet with the following week. You will always have that one kid that wants to meet with you in conferences everyday. However, that just can’t be the case. Each conference should only last 5-8 minutes. 

I’d just jot down simple notes about the story I helped them edit and the skills we worked on that day.


To close out WW, I choose 2-3 students to sit in my “teacher’s chair” at the carpet. Most of the times, it would be students that I conferenced with that day.  The students would then read their stories aloud to the class. The students sitting at the carpet would then ask the “author” questions and make comments about their writing. I had a poster behind my teacher’s chair that helped prompt their questions and comments during this time. I also kept up with who shared at Author’s Chair using a calendar.


After doing this for a year, I loved it. I was hooked. I’ll never teach writing any other way.

I also created a resource that helped me and my students stay better organized during WW! Plus, it just looked a lot cuter! {Which of course is the most important thing!}

It has everything YOU need to conduct WW:

  • Individual conference forms
  • Conference Calendars
  • Author’s Chair Share Calendars
  • CCSS Writing Checklist for 3rd-5th Grades
  • Ideas and directions on how to conduct WW in your classroom
It has everything your STUDENTS need to participate in WW:
  • 3 different binder covers to choose from
  • Conference note sheet
  • Table of Contents for published pieces
  • Mini Graphic Organizer Anchor Charts
  • “Spicy Words” Mini Anchor Charts
  • “Juicy Color Words” Mini Anchor Charts
  • Grammar Mini Anchor Charts




teacher forms



student forms

I hope this helps you implement WW in your classroom this school year!

What do you do to make your WW successful?

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